Back in the dark days of MP3 players with sub-gigabyte storage capacities, iRiver was something of a contender. Its premium MP3 products had unique designs, exceptional sonics and serious price demands.
Times have changed but iRiver’s still carving out an interesting little niche for itself. All of its recent players of note have featured operation controlled by the unique D*click interface, and it’s present and correct in the new L-Player.
D*click places soft microswitches at each edge of the screen, so navigation involves pressing the edge that takes you where you want to go. The on-screen icon system is intuitive so it’s a nifty system to use.
It also means that the L-Player looks like a tiny, cute TV. There’s a power and a volume switch, a covered USB port, a hold switch, a headphone hole and… that’s it. It’s certainly minimalist.
Those used to the flattened, metallic design of the iPod Nano may not be too impressed, but the L-Player’s plastic build is solid and it more than atones for its girth with teensy horizontal and vertical dimensions. It’s a true any-pocket player.
Not pleasing Vista
Loading music, movies and pictures to the L-Player is straightforward: if you want it for music alone, you can drag-and-drop in Windows or use Windows Media Player. iRiver provides software for video conversion, though our copy of Vista 64 didn’t like it. XP, on the other hand, worked just fine.
It’ll play all kinds of files and with decent quality tunes sounds quite good. ‘Quite’ is the operative word here: its slightly muddy delivery won’t scare the iPod Classic but it has a pleasing overall balance with plenty of bass. The supplied headphones are articulate but small-sounding – best replace them.
Star of the (very) small screen
Video is similarly a ‘quite’ impressive story. The screen is great – high resolution, excellent colours – but very small. Short episodes or clips are fine but it’s not made for prolonged viewing.
On the plus side, the L-Player’s built-in FM radio is excellent. Unlike the FM radios on competitors such as Sandisk’s Sansa Fuze, it picks up and holds a signal well, and it sounds surprisingly big, too.
Another boon is voice recording – you may not need it, but here you have it. But best of all is the price. Despite this extra functionality, the 8GB L-Player is £30 less expensive than the 8GB iPod Nano.
If it were our money, though, we’d spend the extra. The Nano sounds better, feels nicer, lasts longer on a charge and has a bigger screen. But if you want an FM radio and you like things that look like tiny tellies, the L-Player could be for you.